Discipline. NO excuses. Rhythm and movement. Motivation. Consistency. Execution only. Positivity only. Clean living. Self-affirmation. Affirmation of life.
These are among the themes of the beyond superb new album The Workout by Stic (aka stic.man) of Dead Prez. Living healthy is no easy task in this society, with both external and internal forces (the monkey mind) leading us toward negative addictions, attitudes, relationships, indulgences, negligence, and so on. But a revolution must lead with folks who comprehend how unhealthy society functions upon the mass of people, and who comprehend how the many contradictions and negative outcomes befall people governed by a system that wants to consume and exploit human beings, and get human beings to consume and destroy themselves in order to make a profit.
Thus I think The Workout, despite its primary concern with self-development, may be among the most revolutionary Dead Prez albums yet, because revolution, a radical break from a legacy of violence, death, ignorance, exploitation, anger, greed and fear, must begin with the self. And only oneself can liberate oneself – we ourselves are often our own worst enemies. It takes unyielding self-discipline, contemplation, study, exercise, and serious internal work to overcome the contradictions that we as individuals engage in that, in part, perpetuate the miserable status quo of human existence at large. Thus, to encourage diligent and profound internal work, including on our physical bodies as well as our minds, is to encourage revolutionary work, full stop.
And Stic and friends do a mighty fine job of encouragement, through superb musical hip-hop artistry and lyricism. This album surely works as great workout music, as I have listened to it during many a workout over the past few weeks. The refrain, “who am I? I am the champion!” from “Champion” buzzes through the mind while one sweats in exertion. Stic rhymes, “over my lifetime I’m tryna do a million crunches, a billion pushups and prolly throw a billion punches; it’s not the numbers, it’s all about the drive and hunger, to live strong like gorillas thrive in the jungle” in “Blood Pumpin’.” I feel really driven when hearing this line, driven to push myself hard for the rest of my life and never stop reaching mental and physical peaks and then exceeding them, going from strength to strength as I become stronger, wiser and sharper with time.
In “Back On My Regimen (Swole like Tookie),” Divine RBG says “My everyday struggle got me slacking on my fitness, I hear my inner voice saying get back to bidness, get back in the gym, get back on the bars, I can get it in anywhere, the world is my yard!” I love these bars because brother Divine reminds us that for most of us there’s little excuse to slacking, as the world is our yard, the whole of whatever tools and facilities and environments we have at hand. We must strive not to permit our everyday struggles to overwhelm us, to smother us, burn us out and steal our lives from under us. So we can do calisthenics at home; we can get it in at the park, taking walks, jogs, stretches; whatever is safest, most available, but we have to get it in no matter what and keep it up. I don’t have a gym membership; just shoes, a bunch of kettlebells, my body, and my urban environment, and I make it work, getting it in 3-5 days a week and feeling absolutely great, killing the negativity and stagnation inside me every day with sweat and torque.
I greatly appreciate the pro-sobriety messages laced throughout this piece. General Steele (of Smif-N-Wessun) declares, “Strict code of conduct, respect for my enemies; exercise mentally, physically, spiritually; no guns needed – got a panther’s agility, and I don’t need drugs to enhance my ability” (Warrior Codes). No drugs, no steroids, no human growth hormone, no easy ways out. No intoxicants, no means to blunt reality. All things worth achieving are best and most sustainably achieved by all-natural, straightforward, head-first means. It’s painful that so much of prominent rap music is about the opposite – celebrating drugs, self-destruction, ill-health, domestic violence and promiscuity, etc. the opposite of a clear-headed, simple, positive, healthy life which brings lasting well-being, not instant and fleeting gratification followed by craving and calamity.
There are so many incredible songs on this album. “Yoga Mat” reminds us of the importance of meditation and engaging in practices that help us arrive at mental clarity. Mental clarity is a rarer commodity than rare-earth minerals, rarer even than known Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. To even seek mental clarity and sincere inner peace, peace with oneself, in this society, is to engage in extremely subversive, anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist activities. The system doesn’t mind meditation, since it doesn’t harm it directly, and meditation won’t speed revolution. But if it were the case that masses of us took up meditation (to regain our minds, assert our willpower and master our destinies) instead of smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, or doing other things to get high and lose our minds, the Babylon system could get mighty nervous.
The sistas make an appearance in “Baby Fat,” “one of whom (I think Ife Jie?) spits “I know a beautiful body is what a man loves, but I do it for me, I got my own standards.” While this album doesn’t exactly explode with feminism, it doesn’t push machismo and anti-women crap either. I appreciate how this woman asserts her desire for health and fitness as based on her own standards and aspirations to wellness, as opposed to being predicated on impressing men. She is allowed to define her own destiny and it needn’t be just about pleasing men; it can be about pleasing and fulfilling herself.
I could go on about other goodies on this brilliant album, like “Bruce Lee” (awesome), “Sober Soldier,” “Let it Burn,” “Runner’s High,” and so on. But to wrap up I’ll just say this is a nearly perfect example of positive culture. We need more positive culture! I need it. This is the sort of stuff I respond to deeply. This is the sort of stuff brothas and sistas ought to contemplate and actualize in order to affirm and perpetuate life rather than destroy it. Negative culture generally seeks the opposite of what our righteous brother Stic and company want to tell us. Positive culture encourages us to push the boundaries of human potential and do what we previously thought impossible, toward positive transformation of self and community. The Workout is right on that tip.
For the hardcore straight-edge vegan fitness freaks, for the revolutionaries, for those who seek health and clarity, for all of the above, this album will talk to you. Please support Stic and wise men and women like him, and cop this album ASAP.